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2023 Season Predictions


Time to see how little my summer studying is going to pay off. All those hours listening to team previews. Reading the magazines. Consuming the analytics. I am never more confident in what I think will happen during the season than right now. By the end of week 1, my confidence is usually completely shot. Still, it's fun to make some predictions and watch them all turn to ash during the fire of the greatest regular season in sports.


ACC Predictions

The ACC goes divisionless this year. Gone are the days of the ACC Coastal serving up a sacrificial lamb to the winner of Clemson - Florida State. Instead, we'll just get to see Clemson and Florida State face off a second time in the championship game. No hard feelings to fans of North Carolina, Miami, or Pitt, but I just don't see anybody catching the Tigers and Seminoles this year.

Champion - Florida State

I am buying the Florida State ACC Champion hype. The Seminoles have star power all over the field. Mike Norvell has done a fantastic job getting this roster turned around after taking over in 2020. Jordan Travis is a dynamic playmaker at quarterback and he has several weapons around him to lead what should be one of the best offenses in the country. Keon Coleman and Johnny Wilson are right up there with Washington and Ohio State's crews for the best receiving duo. On defense, Jared Verse will be a force off the edge and Virginia transfer Fentrell Cypress II bolsters an already strong secondary.


Runner-up - Clemson

Clemson will finish second in the conference. I would not be surprised if Clemson actually splits with Florida State this year and wins the week 4 matchup against the Seminoles at home. I am intrigued to see if Garrett Riley can revitalize the Tigers' attack, which has gotten stale since Trevor Lawrence left. Between a new scheme and the highly touted Cole Klubnick, I think Clemson will be a lot more fun to watch on offense this season. As usual, Clemson is loaded on defense and should be one of the top units in the country. I just think Florida State has the top-end talent to overcome the Tigers for the ACC Championship this year.


Dark Horse - Miami

It's hard to think of Miami as a dark horse candidate, but they were just dreadful in Mario Cristobal's first year. Tyler Van Dyke went from first-round prospect to likely transfer in just one season. Despite the rumors of Alabama wooing him, Van Dyke stuck around. I am assuming the fit with Van Dyke and Josh Gattis at offensive coordinate just wasn't meant to be. Miami hired Shannon Dawson, a Dana Holgerson protege. If Tyler Van Dyke is more comfortable in an air-raid style offense, Miami should improve. They have the talent to compete with just about everybody in the conference.


Big Ten Predictions

The Big Ten is a three-team race. Michigan, Penn State, and Ohio State are three of the top 8-ish teams in the country coming into the year. Each of them has reasonable hopes of making the playoffs. It would be awesome to see them all go 1-1 against the other so they all finish 11-1, a la the Big 12 South in 2008.


Despite the obvious strength at the top of the Big Ten East, Wisconsin and Iowa could both pose a threat in the Big Ten Championship game. Luke Fickell has had his pick of jobs the last couple of seasons and finally jumped at the chance to coach the Badgers. That should tell us he thinks he can have a lot of success there running the 'Dairy Raid' with Phil Longo. Iowa's defense will be a total pain again and the offense will be fun to watch in a macabre way. Watching a 325-point countdown as the season goes on to see if Brian Ferentz can save his job is a story many outlets will be following all season.

Champions - Ohio State

Ohio State loses to Penn State but then takes down the best Michigan team this century to win the East division based on some convoluted tie-breaker scenario (if I am right about all three finishing 11-1, I think it will come down to composite records of their West division foes).


Ohio State's offense should be lethal. That Ryan Day has not picked a quarterback less than two weeks from the opening game is a little concerning, but Day has not had a bad quarterback yet in his time at Ohio State. The offensive line is also a potential problem area as they look to replace Dawand Jones and Paris Johnson Jr., both of whom were selected in the NFL draft. However, the receiving corps, led by one of the best players in the country, Marvin Harrison, Jr., and depth at running back will make everyone's lives easier. The defense should be better in their second year in Jim Knowles' system. JT Tuimoloau, Jack Sawyer, Mike Hall, Jr., and Tommy Eichenberg anchor a deep and talented front seven. Reports of significant improvement in the secondary should ensure the Buckeyes limit the explosive pass plays that plagued them late in the season. I like Ohio State to take back the Big Ten in 2023.


Runner-Up - Wisconsin

If this were next year and the Big Ten was divisionless, this would have been a much more difficult call. I would be choosing between Michigan and Penn State, both of whom I believe will be better than Wisconsin this year.


I am a big fan of the Phil Longo hire on offense. Wisconsin's traditional power running-based attack had grown stale in Paul Chryst's last few seasons. To be clear, Wisconsin is still going to run the ball. A lot. They would be crazy not to with Braelon Allen at running back. While Longo does run a more wide-open attack, North Carolina had two backs run for more than 1,100 yards in 2020. If the personnel calls for a run-heavy attack, Phil Longo will do it. Tanner Mordecai, who is playing in what feels like his 10th season, should be an improvement at quarterback, but I don't think this is a Russell Wilson situation. Mordecai will have a solid, but unspectacular season.


Dark Horse - Nebraska

I like the Matt Rhule hire. I also believe Nebraska has talent on the roster that was not properly developed in the Scott Frost era. Rhule has shown he knows how to develop talent. In his stints at Temple and Baylor, Rhule's first seasons were not great. However, Nebraska is far more talented than Temple or Baylor were when Rhule took over. It would not shock me to see a significant turnaround for Nebraska in this first season.


Big 12 Predictions

The last year of Oklahoma and Texas in the Big 12. It is an elephant in the room that cannot be ignored. Texas has its best roster in years and is deservedly the favorite. And yet, the Longhorns have an even larger target on their back than normal. Will they make it through unscathed? The last 13 years suggest the answer is no.


Importantly, this conference is more than just Texas and Oklahoma. With the additions of Cincinnati, BYU, UCF, and Houston, to pair with teams like TCU, Kansas State, Baylor, and Oklahoma State, this is a deep conference of highly competitive teams. This conference should be a blast to watch this season.

Champions - Texas

I am buying the Texas hype this year. If Quinn Ewars isn't the answer at quarterback (I think he is), then Maalik Murphy probably is. They are loaded at receiver and along the offensive line. Replacing two NFL-caliber running backs to the NFL is never easy, but definitely doable given the talent everywhere else on the Texas offense. Defensively, Texas made huge improvements in 2022 and with six starters back, I expect they will field one of the best defenses in the conference. I'll say it. Texas. Is. Back. (for one season anyway).


Runner-up - Kansas State

Will Howard is back at quarterback. Cooper Beebe anchors one of the best offensive lines in the country. Kansas State looks like every other team Chris Klieman has assembled. Good in the trenches with a serviceable quarterback. It is a winning formula that worked for Klieman at North Dakota State and has produced good results so far at Kansas State. I like the Wildcats to beat out Oklahoma to finish second in the conference, although Oklahoma getting three of the new schools on the schedule is awfully tempting to predict a rematch of 'Red River' for the last Big 12 game Texas and Oklahoma will ever play.


Dark Horse - Texas Tech

Is it a dark horse pick if everyone picks you as the dark horse? Texas Tech has a lot of hype as a potential sleeper pick to make the Big 12 title game in 2023. They finished the 2022 season strong and Tyler Shough is back at quarterback. In addition, Joey McGuire is the hot coaching name in Texas due to all his ties to Texas high school football. The difference between a title game appearance and a middling finish in the standings will be determined by whether the offensive line can improve (41 sacks allowed in 2022) and if the defense can find a way to keep teams out of the endzone (29.2 ppg allowed in 2022).


SEC Predictions

Georgia aside, it has been a while since there was this much uncertainty in the SEC. Are we at the end of Nick Saban's dynasty at Alabama? Is LSU deep enough to make it through conference play with its playoff hopes intact? Was Tennessee a one-hit wonder? Can Kentucky fix its offense? Is Shane Beamer on the verge of building a division contender at South Carolina? Can Hugh Freeze fix Auburn overnight? How patient will Florida be with Billy Napier? Can Jimbo and Bobby Petrino co-exist? There are a lot of intriguing stories in the SEC this year. Towering above them all is Kirby's monster in Athens. It will take a minor miracle for somebody other than the Bulldogs to claim the SEC crown this year.

Champions - Georgia

Will Georgia three-peat? Probably not. Why? History says it won't happen. But looking at this season in a vacuum, it is hard to see Georgia getting seriously tested before the matchup with Tennessee on November 18th. There is too much talent on this team and Kirby Smart has this program running like a well-oiled machine. When in doubt, Carson Beck can just throw it in Brock Bowers' vicinity and good things will likely happen. The defense will be nasty again. I think an undefeated regular season and a second straight SEC championship for the Bulldogs are in the cards.

Runner-up - LSU

I like LSU to win the SEC West for the second straight season under Brian Kelly. Their depth is concerning, but less concerning than the quarterback battle at Alabama. Jayden Daniels, Malik Nabers, and Mason Taylor make up what should be a formidable offensive attack. On the other side of the ball, freshman phenom Harold Perkins is back for his sophomore year and will lead a dominant front seven. If a transitioning secondary can hold up, the Tigers will find themselves in Atlanta against the Bulldogs for the second year in a row.


Dark Horse - Texas A&M

2022 was a disaster for the Aggies. There is no getting around it. However, they still had a monster recruiting class in 2022 and the fruits of that effort should start showing this season. I am of the opinion that Bobby Petrino will be able to run his offense and stand up to Jimbo Fisher if things are rocky, especially early in the season. You don't bring in Bobby Petrino unless you are giving him the reigns. Defensively, the Aggies should be good. They are simply too talented to not be one of the best defenses in the conference.


Pac-12 Predictions

Pour one out for the Pac-12. This is the last hurrah of a once great conference. As a SoCal resident, I am sad to see the destruction of West Coast Football. #Pac12AfterDark has long been one of my favorite parts of the college season. The timing is especially unfortunate as the conference should be really good this year. There are several teams that are legitimate conference title contenders.

Champions - Washington

Washington is going to score points this season. Michael Penix Jr. has two dynamite receivers in Rome Odunze and Jalen McMillan. I expect Penix will be a Heisman contender by season's end. Washington's schedule, especially in November is tough. They play at USC, host Utah, and travel to Oregon State in consecutive weeks leading up to the (final?) Apple Cup against Washington State. I don't think Washington has the horsepower to get through the regular season unbeaten. I am predicting a season split with USC, with Washington taking round two to claim the Pac-12 title.


Runner-Up- USC

Much like the 2022 season, I think USC enters the Pac-12 championship game with a shot at making the playoff with a win. Similar to last season, I think the defense let them down in the rematch against Washington. Caleb Williams leads what will be a dominant offense, but I don't think the defensive improvements will be enough to sweep a Washington team that has plenty of its own firepower. USC just misses out on the playoff, again.


Dark Horse - UCLA

I don't think Chip Kelly is ever going to get UCLA to the same level he achieved at Oregon, but in a deep Pac-12, the Bruins could certainly find themselves in a convoluted tiebreaker situation. I am eager to find out if Five-Star Freshman Dante Moore will win the job, or if it will go to Kent State transfer, Collin Schlee. Kelly's system has proven it is not quarterback-dependent, but when he has a good one, it can be special.


Playoff Predictions

  1. Georgia

  2. Ohio State

  3. Florida State

  4. Texas

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